In this section, Perrin, Egwene, and Gawyn begin their greatest battles.
Egwene plans to lure Mesaana into attacking her in Tel’aran’rhiod and springing her own trap.
Perrin practices defeating nightmares, learning the skills he’ll use in his later battle with Slayer.
Gawyn and Elayne talk about Gawyn’s conflicted choices and his jealousy of Rand. He resents that Rand has acquired all the things that have been promised to him since birth, and finds him undeserving of it. Encountering a sul’dam captive in the Palace, Gawyn learns that the assassins stalking the White Tower are Seanchan Bloodknives, a foe which Egwene does not know about and has not prepared for. When he receives a terse letter from Egwene, he cuts off his nose to spite his face, sending her a letter instead of coming as she asks and as he originally intended to. Some people just can’t stand being told what to do.
Trials are often the climax of a story, and do not always succeed in sustaining the reader’s interest. The use of Perrin’s trial as a delaying tactic in a larger plot allows it to be condensed into one chapter, showing how the law fits into the larger world of The Wheel of Time, then getting back to the more familiar elements of the world.
Perrin realizes the trial is part of a larger trap, but nothing else he says or does augments the excitement and anticipation as much as his blunt plan:
“We ride to this trial,” Perrin said. “And do whatever we can to keep from going to battle with the Whitecloaks. Then tonight, I see if I can stop the thing that is preventing the gateways. We can’t just ride far enough away to escape it; the thing can be moved. I saw it in two places. I’ll have to destroy it somehow. After that, we escape.”
Perrin’s trial alternates between testimony and Perrin’s memories, giving the reader, but not the judge, both sides of the story. Perrin’s memories serve to remind the reader of these long ago events which give his testimony more weight in the reader’s mind, although it all sounds like it must be crazy talk when he testifies about wolves and the Horn of Valere.
Why don’t Bornhald and Byar just lie if they are under some Compulsion? Byar’s scent and Perrin’s earlier reasoning about the trap implies Graendal has been at Byar’s mind, so why not just compel him to implicate Perrin more directly if the trial turns in Perrin’s favour? The answer must be that Graendal’s subtle methods and desire to avoid detection require less intrusive Compulsion.
Morgase rules that Perrin is guilty of killing the two Children of the Light but lets Galad decide on the sentence. Galad’s decision will dictate the identity of the Children of the Light, and effectively allows them to choose who they will be and what they will represent, defining their own reality.
Egwene and Perrin both go to sleep with clear objectives in mind. Battles are imminent.
Perrin encounters Slayer first. Perrin feels a small tremble in the ground, which somehow foretells that Slayer has fired an arrow at him. There are enough special abilities and well-defined rules to give characters the insight they need to escape dangers. It is irritating when it stems from some peculiar feeling of no discernible origin. Mat’s dice and Nynaeve’s storm sense are ill-explained, yet oft-used so that readers forget how contrived they are. Readers accept them because they offer no usable information to the characters to help them escape danger.
Perrin’s practice pays off, and his affirmation that he is a wolf and this is his place helps his mental projections take on more force, as well as providing inspirational tension-building for the reader. The wolves are able to combat Slayer and draw him away while one of them sneaks away to find the dreamspike.
The dreamspike affects the waking world despite existing only in Tel’aran’rhiod. There has been some criticism about this ter’angreal’s abilities, but I find it provides a vital clue for the Last Battle, showing that this realm of willpower over reality can in fact affect the waking world. Tel’aran’rhiod was pivotal in early books, then vanished so readers would stop thinking about it, before reintroducing it in time for the Last Battle. It fits the theme presented above with Galad, repeated several times over in recent books, which is that people shape their own reality.
Don’t let your characters have unexplained or contrived ‘funny feelings’ that save their skins.